Into Coffee and Into Carry: Luke Phillip’s Sustainability Hub

Welcome to another showcase for our Sustainaroo Travels Podcast, where we interview real people making real world changes every day for a better future.

This time we spoke to Luke Phillips, who owns Into Coffee, a zero waste cafe and sustainability hub, and Into Carry, a studio for eco-friendly bags, design and upcycling in Collingwood, in Melbourne, Australia.

Luke has turned the space into a sustainability hub, branching out to sewing classes, social impact businesses meetups, a coworking space, events and collaborations with other sustainable businesses as well as a thriving instagram community where he makes very interesting videos that promote sustainability.

Podcast Interview- Video & Audio Versions

Interview Transcript:

NB this transcript has been edited for smoother reading (removed filler words & repeated words)

Thinking that all of the physical innovations had been done and then seeing that all of those physical innovations were actually incorrect. That was the first time I was like, OK, there’s actually a lot of opportunity that exists in this space. Like opportunity for positive change, not just kind of like fixing things and making them less bad, but actually making them better than they were before. 

So that’s like a really,  that ripples into everything. You know, it’s like, even the term sustainability is like aiming for equal. Like just aiming to be, you know, neutrally existing on the planet. But what if we were aiming for, you know, actually giving back to the planet where the systems and our existence were  allowing the planet to thrive. 

If we start to talk about that as the conversation, then not only will people hopefully want to be more excited and involved in it, because it’s not something you have to expend energy on actively. It’s something that you genuinely want to be in because it’s cool and exciting.

G’day. I’m Luke Phillips. We’re here at Into Coffee and Into Carry up the back. We’re a zero waste cafe situated in Collingwood and we have a design and upcycling studio just in the back of the room. So as you’re sitting here having a coffee, you can browse away at the upcycling and sewing shenanigans that are going on up the back. 

My journey has been one that’s pretty common with a lot of designers or practitioners in different areas. I did industrial design, worked in the field for a couple of years, wasn’t all that educated or involved in the sustainability space, and then was tinkering on some projects. I started looking into the specific materials that I was using at the time. Which was, ironically or coincidentally, neoprene, which is, you know, one of the worst textiles that you could be using. 

It’s like 3 layers of different types of, you know, petroleum, plastic, all melted together. And that just kind of started the rabbit hole. So you know, once you start pulling on the thread, it just gets worse and worse, and it’s extremely depressing and extremely scary. And so, you know, went through that challenging period where you’re trying to reconcile your job fitting into this world and it wasn’t really making a whole lot of sense. 

And then what sort of tied it together for me was particularly, you know the first couple of years at uni, you’re learning a lot about all of these amazing innovations and designers that have, you know, progressed different fields forward. And I always had this kind of underlying feeling or this sort of maybe like this small little bit of sadness that all of those big innovations had kind of been done and we were shifting more to a digital world, which is very, very amazing in a lot of respects. But to me personally, my fulfillment or my passion is around kind of tangible products and working with your hands and solving physical problems. 

So after we kind of process the rabbit hole of what’s wrong with the way that we produce and dispose of materials. This thought popped up that you know, all of those amazing innovations are all of that, that stuff, that was sitting up on the pedestal, something was missing. This key piece of criteria, which is, you know, how do these products actually interact with the planet? 

And you know, obviously that’s not so much a question anymore. That’s been answered by us. And it’s not debated. Not answered by us. It’s been answered by science. And so then with that new perspective, it was kind of like, you know, everything needs to be redesigned. So it was sort of this switch from being in this, you know, relatively glass half empty depressive state of the state of the world. And the way that we’re using materials, but all of a sudden there’s kind of all of this opportunity and excitement for innovation. 

And kind of rethinking how we live in the world and how we’re dealing with materials and how the materials that we’re producing go back into the Earth afterwards. So that was the sort of catalyst that started the thinking. And then I don’t know, that was probably like six years ago. I began with just trying to find waste materials and bring value back to them. There was a guy called Cyril Gurscht. He had this really interesting philosophy around, you know It starts with using the materials that already exist in the world. And then over time, as more technology develops and we get more people involved and the space is thriving, we can start to look at new material development and new systems and new technology with a little bit more validity. 

But right now, probably one of the most valuable things we can do. Granted, this was five years ago, is get the material that already exists and use it to tell a story to all of the people that you know haven’t haven’t gone down that rabbit hole yet. And not everyone needs to, but just the education and the awareness, I think is a really critical point right now. 

That’s what we’ve kind of sunk our teeth into. We exclusively deal with waste materials up the back, with the exception of a couple of like, fixings and things that we can’t source in a better way, and we’re working on making those ourselves at the moment from bottle caps and things. 

But the thing that gets us most excited is, you know, the space and the community. So that’s why we bolted on a cafe in the front of our design studio. So that we can have these kinds of conversations with people and people can start to see sustainable innovation and progress as something that’s exciting rather than a sacrifice or a pain. 

So we’re trying to flip the script in the language and people’s perceptions around it as more of an opportunity and maybe there’s a little bit more abundance that could be there rather than this thing that is usually slightly less quality, costs more money and you know, is harder to use.

So yeah, the timeline for over the last five years was tinkering around with materials and upcycling and trying with the bags that are up on the back wall here. A lot of energy went into the whole life cycle of that product, so obviously sourcing materials from waste, and how can you produce that locally at a price point that’s accessible for like a large portion of the market, and it’s not just reserved for people that have a lot of disposable income. 

And then how can we also make it so that it’s repairable, and we can disassemble at the end of its life. So we do free repairs on all of those products. Which we just did one yesterday, so it’s nice that people are actually doing it. And then that was maybe the first two or three years or something like that. 

And then I met a guy called Rob Rankin, who started the social impact meet up. He has a B Corp certified law firm. I think they’ve been certified for like 7-8 years now or something like that. And he’s a total badass. And he had a similar concept for a space like this. And this was in lockdown. So let’s work on, you know, bringing that to life together. We found this space, and then we moved in here at the end of 2020. 

So it’s been, yeah, a bit over 2 years. One of the main reasons that we wanted to open up a space like this and bring the community in is through our journey, we met a whole lot of awesome people that were thinking in the same way but in different fields.

You know, trying to bring value back to waste, but also we’ve got really amazing businesses like Inro, which sits over here. It’s a clothing rental business. So you pay 60 bucks a month and then Yvonne handpicks 6 garments for you that she’s collected from different op shops. She, you know, tailors them to your style, your size, all of those things. And then you wear them for a month. Drop them back off here and she comes and gets them and rotates them through.

And then we’ve got some, you know, simple things like the whole cafe bench just over here is made from thousands of shredded up alternative milk cartons. Which is really cool. It’s that product is now produced in Australia. It used to be produced in New Zealand. On the other side, we have all of our milk comes from Schultz Dairy in Timboon. It’s like 450 cows, all organic certified. And they all come in kegs, so it’s totally zero waste, but even more efficient than the old milkman system. 

Behind me we have half a dozen different local makers and businesses on display, some of which are using waste. So we have, you know, these Dodgy Paper packs, so there’s half a dozen sheets in there that are made from our spent coffee grinds and the receipts that print out when you order a coffee. Here we also turn that paper and the little bit of milk that’s left in the barista’s jug after they’ve made a coffee into handmade soap.

So the coffee, the receipt and the milk, the three, you know, potential waste that is produced from ordering a coffee is turned into a new product locally made, which is really fun. And the soap is delicious. Although someone did eat it, so we wouldn’t recommend doing that, it’s for your skin. What else do we have? We’ve got Lousy Ink, which is Roger from Dodgy Paper’s best mate he makes pens and artist inks from industrial scale  waste. Which is a surprising amount.

We’ve got this awesome mural that’s coming up at the moment, which is by Nicky Tetsuras Art. The whole thing, I don’t know. It’s probably like 15 square metres. Maybe 20 square metres. The collage that’s on top of it and the paint, everything is from waste. It’s all either found on the street or leftover from other artists’ projects. And you know, we’re trying to tell a little bit of a story like bolting on some coffee waste and disposable coffee lids and things like that. 

Up the back we do a range of things. We run sewing classes that teach people how to sew and repair garments, but also how to upcycle their own tote bags and glasses cases and things like that. We also have a bunch of our own products that we make which are behind me on the wall. So smaller things like glasses cases up to tote bags and the shoulder bags that you see and then we also do more kind of commercial jobs where we’ll partner with the different local business, identify some waste that’s in their supply chain and then figure out a way to turn that into a product that they can sell back to their audience. Which not only you know, distributes the waste, but tells the story around and you know shines light on that. 

Some of the existing waste that’s in their supply chain, we try and keep on waste that’s kind of a low perceived value. So soft plastic or like  little things that you would never really think twice about and, you know, bring that into something and remanufacture it so that it’s something really cool and exciting that hopefully gets people thinking differently about, you know, throwing things out. 

So upstairs we’ve got half a dozen offices with different local businesses all working together. Some of them are like a Footy for Climate charity and there’s Front Runners all working to use sport as a force for positive climate action. Then we have a social impact meet up that runs on the 1st Tuesday morning of every month. We get a different speaker every month. That’s either in the social impact or the sustainability space and we kind of have a deep dive with a bunch of really awesome people over some coffee and some snacks. It’s a free event. 

And it’s a good way to kind of learn about the speaker, but also just to meet a bunch of other people that are thinking in the same way and you know facing similar challenges to what you are. The zero waste aspect is really challenging. Initially, when we opened and and you know, embarked on the zero waste journey, we didn’t plan to have any food. That definitely adds a whole other layer because you’ve got so many different suppliers and you know, everyone. Or it’s much more common to have a takeaway cup or for people to, you know, understand that you don’t have a takeaway cup. Whereas solving the takeaway, that convenience culture for the food was much more of a challenge. 

And initially it depends on how you define zero waste. We define it as you know, anything that comes in the door like we don’t put in landfill. But there’s definitely other ways to to define it, and so it’s not necessarily a great term. I think if we were to do it again, we probably wouldn’t label ourselves as zero waste. Because yeah, maybe it was not worth diving down this rabbit hole, but like you know, one of the biggest learnings that we’ve had over the two years of operating the cafe is the convenience culture. 

It’s so embedded into everyone’s daily routines and habits and expectations of who they’re going to trade with. And it’s really difficult to imagine a future where that wouldn’t exist. There would have to be some serious disruption or some serious legislation. And really actually to change that and to change it would be really challenging for traders and for customers. So our I guess our approach is with the zero waste or or aiming for that, or labelling ourselves as that it’s similar to the upcycling, we don’t believe that it is the solution. But we believe it is the best conversation that we can have with people right now because it challenges the current understanding and it’s a really nice catalyst to frame other potential solutions and futures. 

Which is probably a good segway into, six months ago, we introduced aluminium cans into our offering. Because we believe that right now they are a really good example of a material and a manufacturing process with that material that doesn’t mould it or integrate it with any other materials that it means basically that it’s really easily recyclable at the end of its life. And it’s one of the better existing infrastructures that we have for recycling and redistributing and remanufacturing that product and the material. 

So we put that in there as a way to kind of champion some of the systems that already exist. So it’s technically you know, people are taking it out the door. We’re assuming that they’re recycling it, but I’m sure some of them don’t. So technically, is that zero waste? Like, probably not. But there’ll be a high likelihood that that’s going to end up in a recycling system that’s going to be remanufactured. So that’s a catalyst for a conversation of, you know, what are the other materials or what are the other manufacturing systems or products where we can package up goods that actually work for the whole supply chain?

Like something that’s compostable right now, the end of life for the compostable infrastructure doesn’t really exist. It works for a small portion of people. But you know, we don’t feel super confident sending a compostable sandwich container out the door because of the likelihood of it actually ending up in a compost is you know, I think it’s like less than 5% or something like that. And I guess that’s the you know, it’s part of why we opened, to have the conversations to to figure it out and like we don’t have the answers. No, nobody has the answers, you know, which is why like a community space and bringing everyone together and make it easy to collaborate and work together and share ideas. Is what we get excited about right now at least. Hopefully in three years it’s a different conversation. 

Alternative milk cartons, are one of those examples to kind of reference what I was mentioning earlier about industrial design and all of these amazing innovations already taken place. They’re the Tetra Pak milk cartons are as far as a design perspective, amazing. Like they’re so well designed under the criteria and the information that people had when they were first produced. You know, it’s like, it’s cheap to manufacture. It’s super easy to distribute. The logistics are fantastic. It keeps product on a shelf with no refrigeration for, you know, months and months and months. And that’s why it’s probably the only product that we’ve come into contact with that is the same package on a domestic scale as it is on a commercial scale. So you know, once you’re dealing with cafes and restaurants, everything is in, you know, 20 litre tubs or massive like big 30K bags of rice. 

You know, people at home are using a one litre Bonsoy carton and every cafe is using the same one litre carton. You know, like it just doesn’t make sense. It’s because it’s so efficient that the actual product itself, the carton. But unfortunately it’s just terrible for the environment, I can’t remember. I think there’s like 9 layers of different materials that are pressed together. And yeah, the best example that we’ve found that can be done with it is shredding it into a Saveboard. It’s like a hybrid between a plyboard and a MDF. So you know by no means a circular solution, but at least it is, you know, keeping it out of landfill for for a while. 

So when we first discovered The Udder Way, The Udder Way are the people that distribute the milk kegs. They’re an incredible system. They’re, you know, fully circular, like a really good demonstration of a circular business that’s come into the market in the last three years. And they’ve just scaled really, really rapidly. It’s a huge success story. So if you’re ever having a rough day or a rough trot on our transition to the circular economy, deep dive yourself into The Udder Way’s journey. It’ll fill your cup back up.

And they’ve been working really hard to try and do what they’ve done for dairy milk with alternative milks like, you know, oat, soy, almond. But there’s all of these friction points that pop up because the Tetra Pak is so efficient already that finding a system that’s as efficient and as cost effective is really, really challenging.

To list off a couple of them. Most of the local Tetra Pak plants, the bottling line is typically leased by the packaging company. So say if we’re putting oat milk in there and I’m an oat milk company, I lease the bottling line to make the Tetra Paks off Tetra Pak and then we use it to put our product in. And distribute it out. So if you go to them and say, hey, we’re actually not going to put them in your product, we’re going to just put them in these reusable containers and ship it out the door. 

Well, you actually don’t really have the liberty to do that. So there’s a friction point at the like production scale. Then all of the infrastructure, all of the logistics that are set up at all like, you know regular brands. Whereas with the dairy industry, the cold chain like refrigerated vans and logistics already existed because you still have to take a milk carton in a refrigerated truck, but in a Tetra Pak, you don’t, so you’d have to completely change the logistics. Which is another friction point. 

And then the other one that you run into is the expiry date of it would be dramatically shorter, which is not that big of an issue. But the sediment that settles in the carton is. So one of the reasons that the one litre version is used in cafes rather than like a big 20 litre tub, is with the one litre you can just shake it up and it mixes the sediment around before you pour it. Where it’s doing that with a large one you’ve got to have some kind of a little agitator or something in there. So it’s just like just gets you know, more and more challenging.

And it’s just, it’s such an interesting contrast to see how fast and amazing The Udder Way did it because they were just able to solve all of those problems really quickly and really effectively. Whereas the Tetra Pak is it’s just so good. It’s just so hard to get that change and that’s I think it’s just like a really good comparison for a lot of other systems that exist. You know, fashion has its equivalents of those, like wicked problems, that it just it’s not just one friction point. You know, you’ve got to solve the whole thing or none of it works.

So yeah, what we’re doing with it is most of ours get sent to Saveboard, so we just ship them up there and they turn it into new products. We also make these little bags out of them up the back. Little shoulder bags. And then we’ve also got like, a little take away sanger container. Plus a little origami one which is not made from plastic. 

The single use like takeaway cup option that we have is the edible cups from Good Eddi, which are all made locally in Coburg. They’re again like another relatively new business that are kicking goals. You know what we say to customers is the conversation we have a lot is, you know, you don’t do take away and well we do do take away. We just have these options. We don’t have the like throw away disposable cups which I think is a good thing you know.

We try not to shame people, like we don’t want to sit on our high horse and sort of, you know, talk down to people. That’s not what it’s about. The reception, because we’re based here in Collingwood, we were working in this area already, so we had a pretty good grasp on the kind of the culture and the people that were around here. And you know, it was a calculated risk that most people would be willing to have that conversation or to come back and remember they’re own cup the next time.

And basically you know what, we haven’t run it anywhere else, but the reception has been really amazing. Most people are more than happy to have the conversation. We have a mug wall, so it kind of gets you out of jail free for the first time. And then you can come back with your own cup the next time because basically everyone has one or ten by now.

But what we don’t really have a whole lot of information on is because we have the ‘we don’t have takeaway cups’, ‘we don’t have disposable cups’ conversation obviously, many times a day. And the portion of people that actually come back next time is probably low, like they’re the opportunity costs or the people that aren’t coming back. Because there’s I don’t know, 20 cafes within walking distance from where we are, so if it’s not someone’s vibe, but it’s not their jam and they don’t come back and, you know, we don’t see them again. 

People that do come back, you know we love and they like what we’re about. So our takeaway options we’ve got Good Eddi edible cups, which are made from oats and grains in Coburg. We’ve got clay cups, which are produced by another cafe in Sydney called Cassius. It’s just really nice actually. This is it here. So the clay cups are our dining cups and then they also have a silicone lid that goes over the top and you just pay a deposit, you bring it back. A lot of people when we first opened, just kept the cups and they just continued to use them every day. 

Then we’ve also got Fressko, don’t know how to pronounce their cup, as a reusable option. If you want to purchase one. And then we have a mug wall which is usually stacked with about 20 mugs that we just get from the off shop. You can grab one, continue using it if you like, keep it if you really like it. And then most people just bring them back and reuse them. 

Plastic is just another example of some really wild and impressive innovation that was just designed under the wrong criteria and it’s so rippled into all of our supply chains. And you know just all of our daily lives. Really like might not be the best reference, but you see people on Instagram, you know, trying to live plastic free and it’s very hard. It’s very, very, very challenging. You gotta make your own toothpaste. It’s like it’s everywhere. 

We use plastic, we obviously avoid it as much as we possibly can. But for example, we get our meat from Lenah in Tasmania, they’ve been harvesting wallabies in Tasmania, which is the only place you’re allowed to do it in the world. You can’t do it on mainland Australia. They’ve been doing that for over 30 years. They have all these amazing products, we get wallaby salami and we get smoked wallaby.

 You just cannot ship them not in vac sealed plastic bags. We had a massive conversation with Sally when we first started dealing with them and she said she’s been trying, you know, it’s a huge pain point for her as well because it goes against her ethics. Obviously she’s, you know, aligned with what we’re doing. But yeah, there just isn’t really a model that exists where you can do that. 

Reground, who take all of our coffee grinds and, you know, distribute them through different community gardens and repurpose them. They also do soft plastics. So separate to that we were using them before Red Cycle but basically my understanding is they’ve got one machine and it’s all very, very small operation and all. You know, done more or less under their roof. It’s a partnership, but they’ve got full transparency across it. So you know, we can at least trust that that plastic is gonna be you know, washed down properly and repurposed into something useful afterwards. 

And they’re super rigorous on what plastic you can and can’t put in there, like we’ve gotta take, there’s a little air hole on there. We’ve got to take that off. Which also gives me hope that they’re actually doing things with it afterwards and not just storing it in a shed. We didn’t initially set out to use wallaby specifically, but if we were going to use meat on our menu, it was gonna have to be wild harvested and sustainable. Wallaby is a wild example because there’s two different ecosystems. The ecosystem in Tasmania has an overpopulation of them and has for a long time. 

And so it’s legal to harvest them from there, which Lenah has been doing for several decades. And they also have she told me this 2 1/2 years ago and I’ve never fact checked her, but I’ve told a bunch of people so I always preface it by saying because it sounds insane, but to quote Sally, she said they’re almost carbon neutral animals. And what she means by that is there’s something different within their digestive system that you know that everything that they emit from their body has, like, produces lower carbon emissions. Whereas you know, a cow like, it’s what it excretes, you know, has quite a high impact at scale. Mainly I just think that’s awesome. Calling an animal carbon neutral like they were here long before we were.

Anyway we don’t exclusively use wallaby, it’s just on our menu at the moment. We’ve had like game mixes like rabbit, hare, kangaroo that used to be in our madas curry over our winter menu. They have a whole suite of different game options that you can choose from. And yeah, Lenah, just they’re just badass. They’ve just been around for so long, we feel like they have the best product range. Yeah, the most trust. They also started this side business called Wugg. Where all of the harvested wallabies, their skins and the furs, they turn into ugg boots, so it’s like wallaby uggs. 

And that comes from the pain point of, you know, Sally trying to be, you know, zero waste. So we can see there’s like obvious alignment there, you know, they’re going to great lengths to try and make a real change. Which yeah, is pretty badass, I guess. 

The tip that we usually talk about is, I guess, more of a high level, it’s applicable in different ways to different people. But I think it’s just making space and time, going out into nature and just like really genuinely trying to connect with you know, what we’re all trying to save. And what we’re currently stuffing up. Because that ripples down into, you know, everything, hopefully. Like a deeper connection to the country and to the land that we’re actually living on will hopefully you know, have a ripple effect that brings more energy and is a catalyst for change in all of the smaller bits and bobs in terms of the regular day-to-day things. 

Yeah, it’s a tough one. I mean like single use plastic packaging, like the convenience of it, is just so gnarly I get done with it all the time. So you come home from work really late and you’re exhausted and it’s like buy a bag of coleslaw. It’s just like I can just eat it and I can go to bed in like 20 minutes and then I’m just done. It’s like, it’s really, really challenging. So trying to, like, set rewards or like James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. It’s got, like, some really great like strategies that are super applicable to, you know, not just health, but also your impact on consumption. 

Remember your coffee cup. Don’t crap on other people if they don’t remember their coffee cups, it’s not a competition. You know, we want to kind of build that state of abundance. And if you see something cool that you like that’s in the sustainability space, tell someone about it. You know, you don’t have to buy it, but like it. You know, give the business some love. Share it, like it. Tell your friends about it. Gift it to someone. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening and you know it’s really switching from that state of scarcity and sacrifice to you know something that’s much more optimistic. Going out and chatting to people, like coming to things like social impact meet up, there’s so many different versions of those that are in the sustainability space. 

They can get really, really niche just going and connecting with other people that are doing the same thing or thinking in the same way or asking the same questions as you. Is really, really valuable, because I think often at the moment there’s usually one or maybe two people in a workplace or in a friendship group that are really passionate about these kinds of things. And sometimes you can feel like you’re sitting in a silo. So going out and making an effort to connect with other people that are thinking the same way is super helpful for your mental health but also for innovation and progress as well. 

It’s kind of hard to reflect on it with clarity, but I think the trigger point for my journey, or at least trying to keep that optimistic approach so. The aha moment with, you know, thinking that all of the physical innovations had had been done, and then seeing that all of those physical innovations were actually incorrect, that was the first time was like, OK, there’s actually a lot of opportunity that that exists in this space, like opportunity for positive change, not just kind of like fixing things and making them less bad, but actually making them better than they were before. 

So that’s like a really something that ripples into everything, you know, it’s like, even the term sustainability is like aiming for people like just aiming to be, you know, neutrally existing on the planet. But what if we were aiming for, you know, actually giving back to the planet where the systems and our existence was allowing the planet to thrive. If we start to talk about that as the conversation, then not only will people hopefully want to be more excited and involved in it, because it’s not something you have to expend energy on actively. It’s something that you genuinely want to be in because it’s cool and exciting. That’s kind of the goal and the language that we try and work around. And there’s so many other people that are doing that work, like Joost Bakker is a ripper example. This perpetual energizer bunny of optimism and hard work.

Sustainable Industrial Design

Luke’s journey began as a designer, he studied industrial design and worked in the field for a couple of years. Industrial design is the study of designing the products we use every day, and exploring solutions for manufacturing products.

He felt that there wasn’t much talk about sustainability in industrial design, and he had been tinkering with a few projects and materials, one of which was neoprene. Neoprene was one which he feels is one of the worst textiles as it is three layers of petroleum (plastic) melted together. He started going down the rabbit hole of what’s wrong with the way that we as a society produce and dispose of materials.

He noticed that you learn about all of these amazing innovations and designers who have progressed a lot of different fields forwards. A lot of those had already been done and we were shifting more towards a digital space with design, which is lovely in many ways of course. However Luke has a passion for tangible things, working with your hands, and solving physical problems. 

He thought that many of these wonderful innovations that are in the world are missing the very important criteria of how they interact with the planet that we are living on. And of course the answer is that they don’t interact very well with the environment. 

Luke realised that basically everything needs to be redesigned. Of course there was a moment of sadness whilst trying to process the state of the world, and the way that we have been using materials. But he soon realised how much opportunity there was for new innovation and rethinking how we work, how we use materials and how the materials can go back to the earth afterwards.

He thinks there’s a lot of hope and excitement in the redesign of these things. He began trying to find waste materials and bring value back to them. 

Luke found some inspiration from Cyrill Gursch, a designer who founded Parley for the Oceans, a company trying to transform human made materials to be in harmony with the ecosystem of nature.

You can support their work by buying a water bottle or other merch

Cyrill had a philosophy that you start by using materials that are already in the world, and then over time, as more technology develops and we get more people involved we can start to look at new material development, new systems and new technologies. But right now one of the most valuable things we can do is get the materials that already exist and use it to tell a story for all the people that haven’t gone down this rabbit hole yet. 

Education and awareness is important, and that’s what Luke focuses on at Into Coffee and Into Carry. But the thing they are most excited about is community, which is why they decided to add a cafe to their design studio. This allows them to start conversations with people, and people can start to see sustainable innovation and progress first hand. As something that is exciting, rather than something that is a sacrifice.

They are trying to turn the conversation about sustainable design into something that is perceived as an opportunity, and help people to see the abundance that could be there. Rather than having people see it as something that costs more money but it is harder to use and might be lower quality. 

A friend of Luke’s Rob Rankin, who owns a B Corp Certified Law Firm, started the Social Business Meetup that is held at Into Coffee once a month.

Rob had a similar vision, so he and Luke found the space in Collingwood in 2021 and opened their cafe and space, bringing Into Carry and Into Coffee together to make their sustainability hub .They wanted a space for the community to have to get together and talk to like minded people. They want people from different fields and different businesses, to have a place they can come together with the intention of sustainability.

One of these businesses is Inro, a clothing rental business who has a pick up and drop off point at Into Coffee on one of the couches. You can also order the service to be posted to you.

The idea is you join a monthly subscription, Inro tailors six outfits for you that have been handpicked from op shops according to your style and size. You wear them for a month and then you return them and they get rotated and tailored to another person. Check out their Instagram here

Into Coffee: Zero Waste Cafe

Image of the inside of Into Coffee in Collingwood with their sign 'Zero Waste Coffee'

Into Coffee is a cafe based on the idea that there doesn’t need to be waste produced by the cafe’s operations as much as possible. The zero waste cafe is very proud of their efforts and has some very unique ways of doing things.

Luke talked to us about the creativity and challenges associated with having the goal of having a zero waste cafe. He defines zero waste as not sending to landfill anything that comes in the door. This is a pretty big task.

Luke told us about how zero waste can be a tricky term, as things can’t be one hundred percent zero waste in our society. However his intention is to do what he can to have as little waste as humanly possible in his operations, and to start conversations about all of these issues in the community.

Spreading awareness about waste is a huge part of what Luke does. He says the convenience culture that we are all used to is very embedded, and people have a certain expectation of the way things work, and unfortunately a lot of the way we usually do things creates a lot of unnecessary waste. However as a society we can’t just all stop producing waste, so zero waste is not the solution, but it is the best conversation we can be having with people right now.

Bringing up the idea of zero waste challenges the way we are doing things, and starts up conversations about other potential solutions and futures. These conversations may become catalysts for change, one conversation at a time.

Zero Waste Alternatives used at Into Coffee

Here are some things that Into Coffee is doing to be a zero waste cafe and to start some very important conversations:

Saveboard

Their cafe bench is made of thousands of shredded up milk cartons. This is produced in Australia by Saveboard

Saveboard is a building materials company that uses upcycled packaging to create a few different building materials including roof board, ceiling tiles, lining for walls, and other panels.
All of their boards and offcuts are able to be recycled by Saveboard to make new boards.

At Into Coffee, you’ll see Saveboard material as the cafe bench and the menu holders.

Schulz Organic Dairy

All the (dairy) milk comes from Schulz Organic Dairy, a small sustainable organic dairy farm in Timboon, Victoria. 

They offer milk on tap which is what’s at Into Coffee. The milk on tap is used to make all the dairy coffees at the cafe, and you can refill your milk bottle for home there too.

The Udder Way

The milk kegs from Schulz Organic Dairy are distributed by The Udder Way 

The Udder Way is a reusable primary packaging manufacturer that focuses on getting rid of single use plastics in the dairy industry. They have only been around a few years but have been growing very fast and Luke encourages anyone feeling a little bit down about sustainability to look into The Udder Way’s story. 

They have developed a system where milk from local farms is transported in kegs and then set up on tap at the destination which is a cafe, restaurant, school or anywhere else that needs milk. The kegs are then washed and reused.

Aluminium Cans – Highlighting a Good System

aluminium can and wallaby meat sandwich from into cofee

Into Coffee only stocks pre-made drinks in aluminium cans. Luke believes they are a great example of a highly recyclable material, and a manufacturing process as well. It also is one of the better existing infrastructures that we have to do with recycling, redistributing and remanufacturing that product. Selling cold drinks in aluminium cans only is a great way for Into Coffee to highlight this, and champion some of the better systems that already exist.

Of course, Into Coffee can’t guarantee that all of the cans that are taken away out of the cafe find their way into a recycling bin. They hope that most of them are, but some are likely unfortunately ending up in landfill, which is not zero waste. However the conversations that are started by these cans are worth it. 

Conversations around finding out what other products and materials are available that actually work across the whole supply chain. For example some takeaway containers are labelled compostable, but the infrastructure is not really there for every container that goes out the door to find its way to an appropriate composting facility. Therefore Into Coffee doesn’t use take away containers, not even the compostable ones (more on that a bit later)

Luke says this is one of the reasons he opened a cafe, so that he can have all of these wonderful conversations with people that are coming in and as a way to build community. He says he doesn’t have the answers, nobody does, but it’s important to keep asking the questions. A community space is important as it brings people together and makes it easier to collaborate.

aluminium can and wallaby meat sandwich from into cofee

Tetra Paks – Reusing in many ways

Alternative milk cartons are an example of an amazing innovation that people have created. Tetra Pak milk cartons from a design perspective are wonderful. Under the criteria that people had when Tetra Paks were first designed, they have everything. They are cheap to manufacture, easy to distribute, the logistics work, and the shelf life of the product is impressive.

Interestingly, Tetra Paks are the only product that Luke has come across that looks the same in a domestic environment and a commercial environment. Usually in a cafe, a product is ordered in a huge quantity, and in a normal home that same product might be bought in a small container. But with Tetra Paks, people at home and cafes are all using one litre milk cartons. This is because the product itself, the one litre milk carton, works so well that it is best the way it is. It wouldn’t work as well in a large container, there would be too much sediment and it wouldn’t last long when opened.

Unfortunately though Tetra Paks are not good for the environment. There’s about nine layers of different materials that are pressed together, making them difficult to recycle. The best way to recycle them that Luke has found is to send them to Saveboard to be shredded and made into building materials. He says this is not a circular solution but at least keeps it out of landfill for a long while.

And the success that The Udder Way has had with dairy milk unfortunately hasn’t yet been able to be replicated with alternative milks (which are soy, oat, almond and the like). The Tetra Pak is so efficient already across the whole chain, that finding a more sustainable system that’s as efficient and cost effective is really challenging. 

For example, for most of the local Tetra Pak plants, the bottling line is leased by the packaging company. So for example if Luke was to be an oat milk company, and wanted to lease the bottling line, he would use it to bottle oak milk into Tetra Paks. However he can’t go and use the bottling line, and not bottle into Tetra Paks. So there’s a friction point there at the production line. 

Then also the logistics that are set up for alternative milks are all non refrigerated trucks or vans, but with the dairy industry the trucks all already had refrigeration included. If you’re not using Tetra Paks, and instead wanted to use say reusable containers, the alternative milk would need to have refrigeration all the way along the line. This makes another friction point.

Another one is, the fresh alternative milk would have a much, much shorter expiry date compared to the Tetra Pak ones. This could of course be managed, however the sediment that settles at the bottom of the carton needs to be considered. One of the reasons the Tetra Paks are always one litre is that it can be easily shaken before opening.

If you were to have a twenty litre container of soy milk, you wouldn’t be able to shake it, so the container would have to have an agitation or stirring mechanism inside of it. This adds another layer of complexity.

It’s interesting to contrast this to the way that The Udder Way solved all of these things very quickly and effectively in the dairy industry. But with the Tetra Pak and alternative milks, it’s just very difficult to make those changes.

This is a really good comparison for a lot of other systems that exist when we are talking about making the switch to sustainability. Fashion is another example. There are so many friction points along the system that you need to solve the whole thing, the whole chain, or none of it works.

With all the alternative milk cartons that are used in Into Coffee, most as we said are sent to Saveboard. But some they sew into these cool bags at Into Carry. 

Some are also very cleverly used as takeaway food containers. The Tetra Pak is cut open along one edge and put through the dishwasher, and dried and then lined with a piece of paper. This is what you’ll take your sandwich home with at Into Coffee. We think it’s a very cute alternative to single use takeaway containers!

Luke and the team at Into Coffee also make little origami pouches for people to take muffins home in. These are even cuter than the milk carton ones!

Take Away Coffee Cups

At Into Coffee, they do not use single-use take away coffee cups at all. As these are difficult to recycle, they usually end up in landfill so the team made the decision when they opened that they would not be contributing to the take away coffee cup issue we have in AUstralia. This has been quite an interesting challenge.

They have edible coffee cups, which are also incredibly cute, from Good Edi. These are made locally in Coburg. They are a company who decided to fight the fact that each year in Australia, 1 billion take away cups are sent to landfill. They have made a sustainable option, these cups are vegan, made out of oats and grains. It lasts for 8 hours as a cup, and once thrown away it breaks down quickly. Or you can eat it! It tastes like a waffle, but less sweet. You can put it in your home compost, or use it as a little plant pot as well. The cup does not come with a lid.

Not providing a ‘normal’ take away cup at the cafe starts a lot of conversations with customers. The team explains to the customers that they do provide the service of take away coffee, they just have the choice of three more sustainable cup options. Instead of the disposable cups that end up in landfill.

It’s not about shaming or putting down the other options, it’s more about empowering people to choose more sustainable options, and to let them know that they are easy and available.

Luke knew when he opened that a lot of people in the community would support the idea, and would be happy to bring their reusable coffee mug. The reception from the community has been very supportive. Most people are happy to have the conversation about it when they come in to order a coffee. 

At Into Coffee there’s a mug wall, and if it’s your first time and you didn’t bring a reusable mug with you, you get a ceramic mug to take your coffee away in, from the mug wall. The mug wall has mugs on it that have been sourced from the op shop. You can grab one and use it, and keep it if you really want but most people bring them back and keep using them as a take away option. You can use this option even if it’s not your first time as well.

Otherwise, you can use a Good Edi edible cup for your take away coffee. This costs an extra $2 (so worth it).

Another option is to “borrow” a clay cup. Into Coffee has clay cups made by Cassius, a cafe in NSW

This is the dine in cup as well, but it comes with a silicone lid to be a takeaway option. You pay a deposit to take it, then get the deposit back when you bring it back. A lot of people choose to keep it, and just bring it with them every time they want a takeaway coffee.

You can also purchase a reusable mug by Fressko 

Brands That Made Things From Waste Material

Also Luke told us about the display shelf at the cafe which showcases local makers and businesses, some of which use waste for materials.

Dodgy Paper Packs which is a pack of artist’s paper made from the cafe’s spent coffee grinds and receipts that print out from the coffee orders.

-Speaking of artist’s paper, they also have artist’s ink and pens from Lousy Ink – they recycle waste printer cartridge ink.

-Handmade soap made by Into Coffee staff, made from leftovers in the barista’s coffee jug called Wastle Milk Soap, check it out on the Into Coffee page here

Apart from waste milk, spent coffee grinds and the receipts that print out from coffee orders go into the soap as well. The three waste areas from ordering a coffee – waste milk, coffee grinds and the receipt, are all used to make the soap – and the soap is lovely!

Reground

Reground Coffee, a waste solutions company, take the unused coffee grinds from Into Coffee and distribute them around local gardens.

Zero Waste Menu

Originally when they first opened, Into Coffee didn’t serve any food. Food adds another layer of complexity with different suppliers, but also with the idea of not wanting to provide take away containers. People have become more accustomed to the idea of avoiding take away coffee cups, but offering food means educating people about take away food containers as well. 

People are used to convenience culture and having access to take away is something most of us take for granted. Into Coffee has been creative in offering take away things without the usual single use plastics.

Luke tells us about how plastic is another one of those amazing innovations that unfortunately wasn’t made to work in harmony with the environment. At the time that wasn’t part of the criteria for design. 

It is so ingrained in our supply chain and all of our daily lives. You can see people on Instagram trying to live plastic free, and it’s apparent how difficult it is in our society. 

At Into Coffee, they do use plastic when they need to but they avoid it as much as possible, and when they do need to use it, they keep it out of landfill by recycling it.

Lenah Game Meats

wallaby meat sandwich from into coffee

When it comes to meat, it has to come in plastic. Into Coffee gets their meat from Lenah in Tasmania. The meat has to be vacuum sealed in plastic bags. They have had conversations with the owner of Lenah, who would love to have a plastic free option but unfortunately right now there is no other option for meat.

They have been harvesting wallabies in Tasmania for over thirty years, which is the only place in the world where you can harvest wild wallabies. You can’t do it on mainland Australia. 

Lenah has a lot of wonderful products. Into Coffee serves wallaby salami and smoked wallaby that are used to make sandwiches. 

Luke told us about how it is important to buy meat that is wild harvested and sustainably caught. Wallaby is a good example of this because the ecosystem of Tasmania has an overpopulation of them. It is legal to harvest them there which is what Lenah does. 

Interestingly, wallabies “don’t fart” and therefore produce low or no carbon emissions. They are basically carbon neutral animals. Read about it here on Lenah’s website.

When it comes to the soft plastic waste, Into Coffee gives some of it to Reground, who has a small scale soft plastics recycling program. 

Lenah don’t only sell wallaby meat, they also do other game meats and even reuse the skin and fur from the harvested wallabies and turn them into ‘wugg’ boots. This is Lenah’s way of moving towards zero waste as they value sustainability. 

wallaby meat sandwich from into coffee

Into Carry: Eco Friendly Bags

Into Carry is a design and upcycling studio behind Into Coffee cafe. Luke told us how when you’re in the cafe having a coffee, you can browse through the upcycling and sewing shenanigans going on in the back.

Luke told us about how at Into Carry, they exclusively deal with waste materials, except for a few small fastenings that are impossible to source in a better way. They are working on learning to make those fasteners at the studio from bottle caps.

Using waste materials, the team at Into Carry sew eco friendly bags, work wear, vests and

Here is an article from Fashion Journal about Into Carry

With the eco-friendly bags, Luke spent a lot of time working out the whole life cycle of the product. Into Carry sources waste materials, producing it locally, and at a price point that people find accessible. Also the product needs to be repairable, and can be disassembled at the end of its life. Into Carry does free repairs on all of its products.

Apart from bags, there is a display of other products created by Into Carry for sale. Glasses cases, vests and work wear.

Check out the vests

Check out Into Carry’s blog here

Sewing Classes

Luke tells us how at Into Carry they also offer sewing and upcycling classes, that teach people how to sew and repair garments and upcycle their own tote bags and glasses cases and other bits and pieces.

Sustainability Hub

Another amazing thing that Into Carry does is partner with local businesses and help them identify some waste that is in their supply chain and figure out a way that they can turn that into a product that they can sell back to their audience. This not only distributes the waste, but also shines a light on and lets them tell a story about some of the waste in their supply chain. Usually this waste will have a perceived low value in society like soft plastic for example, and the idea is to remanufacture it to turn it into something really cool and exciting. It also gives people a chance to think differently about throwing things out.

Read more about the Upcycling Brand Partnerships here

Into Carry also works with work teams providing team building upcycling workshops

In the shop there is a stunning 20 square metre large mural on a whole wall and it tells a story about  waste and sustainability. It was made by Nicky Tsekouras, a local queer and multi-disciplinary visual artist who has a passion for using sustainable and found materials in their work. Luke tells us how the mural is entirely made from waste materials that were either found on the street or leftover from other artist’s projects. 

Coworking Space

Up the stairs, above the cafe and design studio, is a space that has offices where local businesses work together.

A couple of groups currently using the space are Footy for Climate and FrontRunners, both are charities looking to use sport as a force for positive climate action

Social Impact Meet Up

April 2024 Social Impact Meetup with Guest Speaker Colin Chee from Never Too Small

The Social Impact Meet Up runs at Into Coffee on the first Tuesday of every month, at 7:30am. There’s a different speaker every time either from the sustainability or social impact space. 

It’s a free event, people get together over coffee and snacks and have a deep dive with awesome and like minded people. It’s great to listen to the speakers but also a way to meet other people in the space who are thinking the same way and facing the same challenges.

Sustainability Tips from Luke

Go out into nature often, make space and time for it, connect with what it is we are trying to save. A deeper connection to country and the place where we live, this connection will ripple down to everything else. This will bring energy for change in all the smaller details.

The convenience of plastic packaging is so handy and easy, we all understand that. It is so challenging to stay away from these things

It is helpful to set yourself rewards. Atomic Habits is a great book about changing your habits and has many strategies that are applicable to both your health and your impact on the planet.

Remember your reusable coffee cup, keep one in the car or your bag at all times. But also don’t put other people down if they have forgotten their reusable coffee cup. Let’s encourage that atmosphere of abundance with each other and be kind and bring joy to the space.

If you see something cool in the sustainability space, tell someone about it. You don’t have to buy it, but like it, share it, tell your friends about it or give it as a gift.

There’s a lot of great things happening in sustainability. It is switching from the state of scarcity and sacrifice to something very optimistic.

Go out and meet like minded people, connect with people, come to the social impact meetups. You may be feeling like you’re sitting in a silo if you’re the only one in your group of friends or workplace that is into sustainability, but if you come and connect with others that are thinking the same way, you’ll find there are many like you.

There is so much opportunity for positive change. Luke’s journey with industrial design is a great example where originally he had the impression that the great innovation has already been done, and then he realised that actually there is so much opportunity to redesign things and create new innovations that are better than the old.

Even the term sustainability is a term that implies that we are aiming to maintain what we have. But what if we were aiming to actually give back to the planet? What about a place where the systems and our existence is actually allowing the planet to thrive? We need to start talking about this as being the main conversation. 

Then people will not only be more excited about it, and genuinely want to be part of it.

A great example of this is Joost Bakker, who is a sustainability researcher that does a lot of work into the future of sustainability and you can keep up to date with his work on his Instagram page.

Check Out Info Coffee & Into Carry

Address
2A Robert Street
Collingwood VIC


Phone: 0448 942 754